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When We Use Grammar

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Dear People of the World, I don’t mean to sound slutty, but please use me whenever you want. Sincerely, Grammar

Cherished colleagues of mine recently gave me the greeting card above.

I have too much to say about grammar in general to write in a single post, so I’ll just write a quick one here to make a point.

I LOVE this card. I think it’s funny, and I love that grammar is personified and is concerned about appearing to have loose morals. I have a sense of humor.

Taking the card seriously, however, it appears to be written to encourage people to use standardized English–what many believe is “correct English” and which is certainly in most places in the US the “language of power.”  But it’s clearly not written by a linguist. Because the card is misinformed about what grammar actually is.

Grammar is apparent in ANY discourse that makes sense. If you can understand it, it has a grammar. African American English, Working Class Vernacular English, Spanglish each use grammar.

Here’s a quick test. Which of the following statements doesn’t use grammar?

  1. The man’s coat is blue and costs $80.
  2. The man coat blue and cost $80.
  3. Guy’s coat’s blue and 80 bucks.
  4. Blue 80 coat’s $ man and the is.

Correct Answer: 4

So the card is funny, and I really like it. But if it was trying to demonstrate superiority regarding knowledge of grammar. It’s a big fail. Score one against the grammar snobs.

For a far more substantive post on Grammar, written by my colleague and collaborator Patricia A. Dunn, please see here. If you’d like to learn more about my views on teaching grammar, please see here (Chapter 1 is available free).

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